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Religious discrimination in the workplace

Employees in New Jersey should be aware that they are protected against religious discrimination even if they do not belong to one of the major world faiths. In addition to protecting people who follow lesser-known religions, laws against religious discrimination also protect atheists.

Religious discrimination may happen in a variety of ways. An employer who stays silent when an employee is being harassed because of his or her religion may be considered complicit in the behavior. It also occurs when an employer denies an individual a job or promotion based on his or her religion. In fact, it's illegal for a company not to hire someone of a certain faith due to customer preferences. Religious discrimination also includes being intolerant of a person's dress or actions related to his or her belief system. Finally, associational bias is another form of religious discrimination that involves discriminating against a person based on his or her relationship with an individual of a certain religion. If a worker reports religious discrimination, his or her employer is not allowed to retaliate against him or her.

Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for an employee's religion and work to find a compromise if necessary. However, if every employee asked for the same day off for religious reasons, this might constitute an undue hardship for the employer, and a request may be lawfully denied. An employer is never allowed to retaliate against an employee for requesting a religious accommodation.

Employees often do not fully understand their rights around protection from discrimination based on religion, race and other factors. In some workplaces, employers do not understand those rights either. Someone who believes he or she is facing discrimination at work may want to speak to an attorney about whether he or she belongs to a protected class and how to address the discrimination in the workplace. If an employer does not respond to a worker's allegations of workplace discrimination, that employee may want to consider filing a lawsuit.

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